TORY LEADERSHIP ELECTION: Ex-funeral director MP may try to bury Major

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The Independent Online
Barry Field, "stalking donkey" in waiting, was enjoying his moment of fame yesterday.

Film crews and journalists queued on the terrace of his Cowes home, while he held court on the lawn, against a backdrop of sea, sun, and yachts - one of them his own.

In a contest for style and wealth, he could clearly upstage the Prime Minister anyday. But in a contest for leadership this little-known right wing backbencher from the Isle of Wight clearly hasn't a hope.

Appropriately the man who wants to play a part in helping to bury Mr Major, made his millions from the funeral business. His family controlled the third largest undertakers in the country, which was bought in a hostile take-over by an US company last year for pounds 113m.

Mr Field, 48 and a father of two, said he was considering standing only for the cause. "We have a party that is ravaging itself to death instead of tackling the Labour party. Mr Major said 'put up or shut up' and I think that must be right. Once we emerge on the other side we will all be all the better for it."

He said he was neither a stalking horse or "seaside donkey" as he has now been dubbed. "But I will say this. We don't have seaside donkeys on the Island any more, but when we did they were very popular."

Is his motive to boost his defence of a weak 1,800 majority? Mr Field demurred. He was only considering standing because, in the words of his mentor, Sir David Price, former MP for Eastleigh, "an uncontested election would serve no purpose".

He will not say which, or how many, people or have approached him to stand. Nor will he say who he would like to see leading the party - maintaining a pretence that if he stands it will be to win. "John Major has never said anything bad about Barry Field and Barry Field is not about to say anything bad about John Major," he said.

But he is a Euro-sceptic who is clearly dissatisfied with the economy and the Cabinet. And what might concern Mr Major most is that a loyal backbench MP who has never before before rocked the party boat - and who displays in his hallway a letter from the Prime Minister thanking him for his loyalty - appears to be doing so now.

That was not a view shared by all the Isle's Conservatives. One said: "He's doing it to boost his popularity. He can't run the Island let alone the country, but don't say I said that."